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‘Jungle’ roars, ‘Hero’ flexes B.O. muscles

The start of the Easter vacation gave European cinemas a small boost last week as “The Jungle Book” won millions of new admirers and “Forever Young” and “Accidental Hero” (released in the U.S. as “Hero”) made impressive debuts.

“National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon” tickled Australian funny bones while “Groundhog Day” provoked few laughs in Sweden, its first foreign date.

Following their Oscar victories, “Unforgiven” averaged a 20%-25% uplift and “Scent of a Woman’s” receipts rose 14% in Europe.

Warner Bros. can probably expect to pull an extra $ 2.5 million in rentals out of Europe from “Unforgiven.” The Academy Awards have not changed the film’s irregular performance as an upmarket draw in cities and towns, but a bust in the provinces.

“Scent of a Woman” has grossed $ 29 million overseas to date, UIP reported.

In Britain, newcomer “The Jungle Book” was the overwhelming favorite of vacationing kids, while “Forever Young” was off 20% in its second weekend and “The Distinguished Gentleman” lost 28% in its second.

Crucified by the critics (“cross town to avoid it,” urged one), British comedy “Splitting Heirs” had a dismal debut.

The Hulk Hogan vehicle “Mr. Nanny,” shrewdly released as the hype for Wrestlemania 9 reached a crescendo, was limp in London but muscular in the provincial multiplexes, playing young and downmarket. “Used People” bowed blah in the capital, as did Krysztof Zanussi’s “The Silent Touch.”

Paris ticket sales rose by nearly 15% to 633,520 last week, paced by long-running Gallic champ “Les Visiteurs” and the debut of “The Jungle Book.” Arriving with minimal publicity and advertising, “Enchanted April” scored handsomely on 61 prints — equally strong in Paris and the provinces.

Madrid B.O. surged by 25%, fueled by “Jungle Book” in its second lap and rookies “Accidental Hero” ($ 614,770 nationally in the first weekend on 77 screens) and “Forever Young” ($ 616,535 on 59).

The Mel Gibson starrer also initialed well in Belgium, South Africa and Finland but was only fair in Sweden, where some locals may regard it as too contrived.

There was a small uptick in Italy as “Unforgiven” gained about 20% and “Howards End” also fared slightly better in the wake of the Oscars. “Accidental Hero” has amassed a tidy $ 1.7 million through 10 days on 97 screens in Italy, pushing the foreign cume past $ 23.4 million.

Last weekend the top 10 in Germany collected $ 8.25 million, down about 11% on the previous weekend mostly because Sunday biz was terrible. Why? Exhibs admit they are mystified, especially with inclement weather in their favor, although the first TV airing that evening of “Pretty Woman,” which hooked 12 million viewers, must have been a distraction.

After corpsing in Australia, “Leap of Faith” partially redeemed itself with an OK opening in Germany. Exhibs said it was helped by new title “The Fake Healer,” a clever wordplay evoking a phony bank note.

Teutonic comedy “No More Mr. Nice Guy” did fine in the northern part of the country, while the other entries, local pic “Mr. Bluesman” featuring Lloyd Bridges, and “FernGully: The Last Rainforest,” tanked.

Opening weekend of “Groundhog Day” in Sweden was rated as disappointing by exhibs who expected more after the U.S. results.

The decisive tests come over the next two weeks as Harold Ramis’ comedy preems in Italy and Australia. Columbia TriStar is supporting the film with a decent number of prints, intensive pre-screenings and contests.

“Alive” had a bumpy landing in Australia, averaging $ 2,287 in the first weekend on 58 screens, distantly trailing “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon’s”$ 7,536 average on 76.

Imitating the U.S. campaign, UIP is previewing Frank Marshall’s film for religious groups in just about every territory. But “Alive’s” initial results were much healthier in Argentina and Uruguay (the latter benefiting from a local connection, as that’s where the air crew hailed from) and Israel.

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